My first encounter with Vancouver – if one can have an encounter with a city – was around the age of 15. It was summer and I had just bought the tape of Bryan Adams “Into the Fire” – it was the tape age around ‘87- and had I rushed into my father’s car as we were ready to set off for our summer vacations. Along with it I had bought two pairs of batteries for my tape recorder. As I moved in the back seat I remember I spent a good five minutes looking at the tape’s cover and sucking every tiny pixel of it. I knew that Bryan Adams came from Vancouver and that time I thought that … logically thinking, that photo should have been from Vancouver*. So, as usually one picture is enough to create a certain view about something, that day the idea stuck into my mind that Vancouver was a dull, grey, boring, cold city with water around it in the Southwest corner of Canada.
It was only many years later that I changed completely my view about Vancouver.
Sometime in May 2002 there were three meetings I had to attend and the only way to combine all three without having to move back and forth to London, was to make a round the world trip.
Not many times in our lives do we have the chance to make a round-the-world trip and I still consider myself as a super lucky guy both because of living such a great experience – travelling for a month and crossing all time zones – but because it made me see the world from a different perspective – related to our sustainable living on earth and the environment. (I will have to elaborate more on the latter)
After Seoul, Korea and before Ottawa I had two days to kill. So the wise thing to do was to spend two days in Vancouver – on the flight path between Seoul and Ottawa.
It was a glorious day when I arrived.
The Vancouver International Airport was covered with a serene and quiet atmosphere. Going through customs and exiting the terminal was quite a seamless process and after a not-so-great business class flight, I was eager for a good lunch and a beer at ground level.
Once outside the terminal the air hit me. As always the air outside an airport terminal is one of the first and best ways to trigger your senses at a destination and most of the times that exact feeling when getting out is one of the feelings one remembers most easily after years. In that case, I felt the fresh, slightly cool air hit me in the face as if it was coming down from the Coast Mountains or the Rockies more into the mainland of the Americas. It felt different from anything I had breathed in my life. It felt as if the air had captured and directed into my nostrils all the smells and pictures of Canada as it was flowing down from the snowy and rocky peaks of the mountains to the Vancouver airport.
I took the green bus which took me downtown. Initially the view was nothing special but as we were descending towards the city centre a most breath-taking view was captured by my optic nerves – the North Shore Mountains. Their menacing white and cloudy tops appeared in front of me. They looked like the last frontier before the barren and waste lands of Canada. They looked like the border that nobody had crossed or the border that whoever crossed, had never come back. They looked as if being take out from a Tolkien story. I thought I would very much like to walk and cross that border and feel like those first settlers or those first gold miners – as if from a Jack London story – that crossed that or other borders and mountains, looking for gold in these lands or further north to Yukon. I thought I could have a house up there and every morning wake up and enjoy such great vistas towards the city.
I just could not take my eyes out of this exquisite view until we started getting into the city. It was another marvellous view. It was Saturday and the street we were cruising with the bus seemed a busy street. Cafes, restaurants, bakeries, shops were full of people enjoying the morning coffee, getting ready for their Saturday lunch or enjoying a morning walk. Houses were small and looked very clean with nice gardens and the whole scenery seemed to present a city very humane, easy going and beautiful. I even thought to divert from my original plan, stop the bus and just hang around in the south suburbs for a while.
The ride to the city was one of the most enjoyable I had ever executed. I had not completed three hours in Vancouver soil and yet somehow I felt part of this place. I felt so connected with the city. I felt the city in my heart. I felt I could live there for some time – a week, a month or even two years – marvelling the city, exploring the surrounding areas and what they offer, using it as a base to visit northwest Canada or just writing a book!
The bus took me down town and after a quick hotel check-in I made it to the streets! I only had one day – my flight to Ottawa was departing in the afternoon the next day – so I had to suck everything I could from this city in just a day.
For the next 24 hours I had a full schedule.
I visited and walked Stanley Park.
I visited the Harbour Centre and had some great views of the city.
I visited the Vancouver Convention Centre and marvelled the world landmark “Canada Place” that immediately in all corners of the globe when seen is associated with Vancouver.
I visited Burrard and Robson Street and the whole surrounding area and appreciated the nice and humble shopping district.
I visited the south and west shores and marvelled areas with great potential.
I visited the north shore and again marvelled with awe the mountains.
I visited in the afternoon some bars and appreciated some great vibes the city sent out.
I just walked aimlessly around and just appreciated a great and vibrant city.
24 hours had passed and even though on Sunday the city had put on the rainy and drizzly face, I still could feel the great impact this city made on me. I packed my suitcase, went to the airport and even when the plane had departed in the west Vancouver skies towards Ottawa, I would still look back through the window to get the last glimpse of this marvellous city.
Until today I do consider Vancouver one of the best places in the world to stay for one year and I still remember that simple yet great one-day stay in that superb city of Canada. It is not by chance that the city in the last years features as “one of the best cities to live”, “most sustainable city”, “city with the best quality!”
If I ever visit Canada again, Vancouver will be in the first or second position of places to visit and I hope I have the chance to visit the city for more than just a week and … shoot more photos from the 4-5 I had shot on that rainy Sunday.
I sincerely suggest people to add Vancouver in their travelling wish list.
* Wikipedia says the photo was shot in unknown location!